Blake’s heart hammered in his throat while he waited for Farrah to react. She blinked up at him, her huge brown eyes unreadable. Her red jumpsuit clung to her curves and matched the color of her lipstick She looked like a goddess of fire, and her heat incinerated him, burning through skin and bone to reveal the secrets he’d tucked away in the darkest corner of his psyche. Tearing them out of their hiding place and handing them to Farrah, one by one, had been akin to tearing out pieces of his soul.
But as painful and anxiety-inducing as writing his previous notes had been, they didn’t compare to the one Blake clutched in his hands.
Kris cleared her throat. “I’m going to check on the other guests. If you want privacy, you can use the library.” She tilted her head toward the door to Blake’s right before leaving.
Gratitude bloomed in Blake’s chest. He hadn’t expected Kris to help him. They hadn’t spoken in years, and she hadn’t exactly left Shanghai with a great impression of him. He supposed he had Olivia to thank for Kris’s reluctant assistance.
Olivia had taken pity on him after seeing him wait outside her and Farrah’s building for months and offered to help. She’d tipped him off to the fact that Farrah would be at Kris’s NYE party and convinced Kris to add him to the guest list.
Blake could’ve waited until Farrah returned to New York, but according to Olivia, that wouldn’t be until mid-January, and he couldn’t wait that long. He was already dying a little more inside each day as it was. So, he flew home to Austin for Christmas, where he had a long, hard talk with his family about Cleo. They’d been shocked but had taken the news of Cleo’s lies better than he’d expected. They’d mostly worried about whether he was okay, which touched a part of him he hadn’t known existed.
The past was the past, and Blake could finally put it behind him.
Now, there was only one major piece of his life he needed to fix.
“Let’s talk inside.” Farrah brushed by him and walked into the library; Blake followed, his body taut with anticipation.
He’d landed in L.A. last night and spent most of today pacing his room, working out in the hotel gym to rid himself of restless energy, and taking care of business stuff. It was New Year’s Eve, one of the biggest nights for the nightlife industry. During the past few months, Blake had kept on top of his company via email, phone calls, and day meetings, but he’d delegated site visits—including for the Miami rollout—to Patricia. It’d been the only way he could pursue Farrah without disappearing for days at a time every few weeks.
Farrah leaned against the marble fireplace and folded her arms across her chest. “What are you doing here?” She was shaking, or maybe that was his hope talking.
She still cared about him. Her freak-out when she found him in the snowstorm proved that. To be honest, Blake wasn’t sure why he’d waited outside that so long. All he knew was, he was desperate to get back into her good graces, and if that meant he had to freeze his ass off on the slim chance that the love of his life might come out and talk to him…well, that was a risk he’d been willing to take.
And it had worked.
Now, if only he could break through her final wall.
“I came here for you,” he said simply. “And to give you this.” Blake held out the gift in his hand. Farrah stared at it like it was a cobra waiting to strike.
For a second, he thought she wasn’t going to take it. But then she walked over and plucked the wrapped box from his palm. Her orange blossom and vanilla scent slammed into him with dizzying impact, and he had to shove his clenched fists into his pockets so he didn’t crush her to her chest and kiss her until they couldn’t breathe.
Blake’s gaze didn’t stray from her face as the crinkling of gift wrap replaced the silence. Farrah sucked in an audible breath when she saw what lay beneath the matte gold foil.
An engraved heart-shaped locket, nestled inside a tiny glass box.
“There’s something inside the locket.” Blake fished the key to the box out of his pocket and pressed it into her palm, savoring the soft warmth of her skin against his before she pulled away. “My final letter. You don’t have to read it now. I just…” He trailed off. “I wanted to deliver this one myself.” He watched her, his pulse jumping beneath his skin. “Have you read any of my other letters?”
Farrah’s nostrils flared. “Yes,” she admitted.
Funny how one quiet word could hold so much power. Blake’s heart soared in his chest, and he tamped down a grin.
Read my letters when you feel like you might be able to give me another chance.
Maybe Farrah had just been curious, but he was going to take any win he could get.
He watched, afraid to breathe, as she opened the box with trembling hands. She retrieved the sheet of paper tucked inside the locket, folded into the smallest of squares.
In it, Blake explained everything—the truth behind Cleo’s pregnancy; the accident; his run-in with Cleo and her father when he’d been in Austin; how Daniel Bowden’s words had carved themselves into his brain, exploiting every fear he had about the kind of person he was.
He shared the deepest, darkest thoughts he had over the years, the ones that convinced him of what a shitty person he was—the excitement and panic of being a father, the resentment over being forced to parent at such a young age, the guilt over his role in the car accident and, most shameful of all, the relief. It had been a flicker that lasted less than a millisecond, but the tiny of fission of relief Blake felt at not having to spend the rest of his life with someone he didn’t love plagued him long after he and Cleo parted ways.
In that millisecond, he’d been sure he would go to hell because only monsters would be relieved over a loss so horrific. It didn’t matter that the relief played an infinitesimal part of his larger reaction, that it’d been quickly drowned out by overwhelming grief and pain. The fact it’d existed at all was his greatest disgrace.
Blake’s pulse ticked in rhythm with the clock on the mantel.
Tick. One eternity. Tick. Two eternities.
All the while, a universe of emotions played out across Farrah’s face—shock, horror, sympathy, pain, and sadness that crashed into a crescendo when she lifted her head to meet Blake’s eyes.
“This is all true?” she whispered.
“Yes.” The word rasped over his dry tongue. “You can check the sources if you don’t believe me. Landon knows what happened. My family too. But the parts about how I felt—” Blake’s throat processed a hard swallow. “That’s all me. I’ve never told anyone the things I told you in these notes. I’ve spent so much of my life being the sun—the homecoming king, the football star, the successful businessman—that I was terrified of what would happen once the sun sets and night falls. So, I ran. I ran every time darkness closed in, every time I had to have a hard conversation or face up to my shit. When I quit football, I ran to Shanghai because I didn’t want to deal with the fallout. When I found out Cleo was pregnant, I ran from you and lied because I was too scared to find out how you’d react to the truth. I thought it would be easier if you believed I never cared at all.” Blake’s mouth twisted into a wry smile. “I told myself it was because I wanted to give you a clean break, but in reality, I was a selfish bastard who didn’t want to complicate things for myself.”
“After we lost the baby, I could’ve reached out to you. You were all I ever thought about. Every single fucking night. But I was in such a dark place, and even after I crawled out of that pit, I felt so guilty about what I did—or what I thought I did. I didn’t deserve you, and I didn’t want to upend your life again after so many years. Then you fell into my lap again like an angel from the heavens, and I thought, this is it. This is a sign we’re meant to give this another chance. And we did—you did, even though you didn’t have to. But once again, when the going got tough, I pushed you away and ran, because I didn’t want you to see what a twisted, fucked-up mess I really am inside. I said I didn’t want to hurt you, but really, I didn’t trust you enough to believe you’d stay once you found out what kind of person I really am, and I am so freaking sorry. You trusted me, and I didn’t trust you. So I let you go.”
Blake’s voice thickened. “But here’s what I realized. I’m tired of running. I know it’s hard to believe, given my history. That’s why I waited for you all those months, and I’ll continue to wait for as long as it takes. You need time, I get that. But these letters…I wanted you to see the real me. To give you the choice I should’ve given you a long time ago. You can stay or you can leave, but know this: if you aren’t by my side, it doesn’t matter how bright the sun shines. I’d rather live in eternal darkness with you than live in eternal sunshine without you. So here I am, asking you to give me another chance. This time, it’s all of me. Every scar, every flaw, every fucked-up thought and every dream I’ve ever had. It’s yours. I don’t want to run anymore, but unless you look me in the eye and tell me you don’t love me—I will chase you to the ends of the earth until the sun fucking explodes. You are it, Farrah Lin. You always have been. You always will be.”
The paper fluttered from Farrah’s hand to the floor. She closed the distance between them until she stood so close Blake could count each individual eyelash and see the teeny-tiny mole above her upper lip. He breathed her in, drunk on her scent, even as his nerves raced full speed down his spine.
“You’re not a terrible person, Blake,” she whispered, cupping his face with one hand. “Those dark, selfish thoughts you have? We all have them. It doesn’t make you a monster. It makes you human.”
Blake wanted to argue. A sick part of him wanted to prove he was a terrible person, that he didn’t deserve any of the good things in his life. But he was coming to the realization that that part of himself was his own guilt and insecurities talking, and that in order to move on, he had to forgive the person who needed it most: himself.
Farrah took a tiny step back, and it was all he could do not to yank her close again.
She didn’t break their gaze as she clasped the locket he gave her around her neck.
“You know a lot of things about me, Blake Ryan, but here’s what you don’t know. I never fell out of love with you, not even after Shanghai. I told myself I did, but it was a lie. This is my truth: you are my One Big Love, my fairytale, my Hollywood romance. I want all of you, the same way you want all of me. Every scar, every smile, every dream and nightmare. I’ve been falling all this time; I just needed you to stop running long enough to catch me. Also…” Farrah leaned in, her breath tickling his lips. “I think darkness is beautiful. And I fucking love sunsets.”
Blake didn’t get a chance to respond before her lips crashed against his, his mind went blank, and instinct took over.
Their hands roamed, their bodies rubbed, and their tongues tangled in a sultry dance, one he wanted to last forever.
“Does this mean I get another chance?” he panted, just to be sure.
“Last chance. Don’t fuck it up,” Farrah warned, her cheeks rosy and eyes glazed with lust. But the undercurrent of seriousness was there.
“Trust me. I’d rather chop off my arm than fuck it up.” Blake nipped at the sensitive spot below her ear, and her resulting shiver rolled through him, hardening him to the point of pain. “You’re stuck with me, babe. Think of me as your very own super sexy, super talented super glue.”
Farrah’s laugh pealed through the air. “Talented, huh?” Her mouth curled up into a naughty grin, and he almost came right there. “Prove it.”
Thirty seconds later, their clothes were on the floor, the emergency condom Blake always kept in his wallet was on, and he’d slammed Farrah up against the wall.
“Kris will be pissed we defiled her library,” he warned.
Farrah hitched a shoulder up. “She’ll get over it.”
“Damn right she will.”
Blake tightened his hold on Farrah’s hips and plunged into her, covering her mouth with his and swallowing her cry of surprise and pleasure. Perspiration slicked their bodies, and he hoped to God Kris had soundproof walls; otherwise, every A-list celebrity in Hollywood was getting an audio experience they hadn’t signed up for.
Not that he cared. All Blake cared about was the woman in his arms.
Five years, two continents, multiple heartbreaks.
They’d been through some shit, but there was not a doubt in his mind that this was where they belonged.
He slammed into Farrah, his fingers digging into her thighs as he willed himself not to come.
Sweat beaded his forehead, and his breath rushed out in short, heavy pants.
Farrah tightened around him and screamed, a breathless wail of pleasure that crashed over him like a wave of molten lava, setting every nerve ending on fire until he couldn’t take it anymore.
Blake’s orgasm exploded through his body as he drove into her one last time, its fury so raw, so powerful he would’ve collapsed had Farrah’s limbs not locked around his torso. Bright lights speckled his vision, and aftershocks rippled through him until he regained control of his senses.
Once he did, he heard Kris fuming through the library doors. “I’m going to kill them. This was not what I meant when I said privacy. Now I have to hire a crew to disinfect the entire room.”
Blake and Farrah looked at each other and burst into laughter.
“Oops. I think Kris is mad at us.” Farrah’s eyes gleamed with amusement and unabashed shamelessness.
“It was worth it.”
“A hundred percent,” she agreed. Hair tousled, mouth swollen, skin slick with sweat. She was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen, and he couldn’t believe she was his.
“I love you, Farrah Lin.”
Her eyes turned liquid. “I love you too, Blake Ryan.”
Their lips met again in a kiss, long and sweet and lingering, and Blake knew, after a lifetime of running, he was finally home.